Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Brothers, We Are Not Theologians

Theologian could be a dirty word. There isn't an office for learning, understanding, and sharing the teachings of the Bible - it's just a basic Christian role. Whether you are an evangelist who convinces others of the faith, an apologist who defends/establishes the claims of the faith, or a pastor who helps other people live out their faith (we call it 'shepherding'), all Christians are called to examine the Bible and share what it says. Even those who are "theologians" end up taking on one of these other roles anyways.

Vocab Check: 'Thē-ə-ˈLō-Jən'
Theology is just the study of God from the Bible, and theologians are people who do this kind of study. So, really, theologians are just people who learn about God from the Scriptures. That's something that all of us should be doing (2 Peter 1:19), not just a few men with a title. And, if everybody is doing the work of these theologians, then in effect nobody is one. The role becomes meaningless if all the kids are doing it.

Explainer With Authority vs. Messenger Boy
There are all kinds of well-known thinkers who have explained the Bible, and I have some favourites among that group: Aquinas, Calvin, Warfield, Henry and Carson are just some of the names that come off the top of my head. But, like Soren Kierkegaard pointed out in The Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle, there is a difference between genius and authority, and these men have plenty of genius but do not have any authority. (Which is why I don't quote them often.) They are at best well-informed conversation partners. The real authority goes to the Biblical writers themselves. Theologians are messenger boys, learning and passing on the message of the authoritative writers of the Bible.

Evangelists, Apologists, and Preachers, Oh My!
Let's say that every Christian fits one of three roles: an evangelist, an apologist, or a pastor. The evangelist wants everyone to believe in Jesus and become a Christian. The apologist wants to defend the beliefs of Christianity and establish them as a fact. The pastor wants to guide those under his care to 'work out their faith in awe [fear] and reverence [trembling]' (Philippians 2.12). It is at least the duty of every Christian to major in one of these three areas:

ALL Christians are told to give a defense for their faith, like Apologists (1 Peter 3.15).
ALL Christians are told to make disciples, like Evangelists (Matthew 28.19).
ALL Christians are told to encourage others in faith their, like Pastors (Hebrews 10.24).

When someone does these things full time, they get a title. Often a 'theologian' does one of these three things with his work, and so his title should really be 'Pastor,' or 'Evangelist,' or 'Apologist.'

These roles of evangelist, apologist, and preacher are common to all of us, and all require a little bit of theologian-work. An apologist needs to understand the teachings of the Bible before he defends them; an evangelist does too; so does a pastoral person who encourages people to grow in their faith. So we can't see this as something a highly specialized thinker does. This has to be our work too.

Brothers, We Are Not Theologians
Like the title says, we are not theologians. There are none. The work of interpreting the Bible is not something done by old, wise, authoritative men in well-lit studies; it is the role of every Christian person. God has spoken through his Word, and we are to listen to Him through it.

So if someone comes up to you and says, 'you talk about the Bible; you're a theologian at heart,' just smile and tell them - 'no, just a Christian.' Let them ask you what they mean!


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